Wadsworth I - History

Wadsworth I - History

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Wadsworth I

Wadsworth I(Destroyer No. 60: dp. 1,060 (n.) 1. 315'3", b. 29'11" (wl.); dr. 10'1/4"; 5. 30.67 k. (ti.); cpl. 99; a. 4 4",8 21" tt.; cl. Tucker)The first Wadsworth ( Destroyer No. 60) was laid down on 23 February 1914 at Bath, Maine, by the Bath Iron Works; launched on 29 April 1915, sponsored by Miss Juanita Doane Wells; and commissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on 23 July 1916, Lt. Comdr. Joseph K. Taussig in command.After trials and torpedo firing drills out of Newport R.I., the destroyer took up duty off the New England coast line in October. Her duty included patrols to insure America's neutrality vis-a-vis the year-old European war. On 7 January 1916, she departed Provincetown, Mass., to join in the annual Fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean. After a stop at Norfolk, she reached the West Indies at Culebra Island on 15 January and began a three-month round of war games, drills, and exercises. During her stay in the Caribbean, she visited Guantanamo Bay, Guacanayabo Bay, Manzanillo, and Santiago-all in Cuba. On 10 April, she left Guantanamo Bay to steam north, stopped at New York for a five week stay, and returned to Newport on 21 May. Wadsworth resumed operations along the New England coast, and the succeeding year passed in much the same way |as its predecessor-summer operations along the northeastern coast followed by Fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean.At the completion of her second round of winter Fleet maneuvers in the spring of 1917, Wadsworth returned north as far as Hampton Roads. As America's entry into World War I approached, she and her sister destroyers began patrolling the Norfolk-Yorktown area to protect the naval bases and ships there against potential incursions by German submarines. Then, on 6 April 1917, while the warship rode at anchor with the rest of the Fleet at Yorktown, VA., the United States opted for the Allies in World War I. Wadsworth moved to New York almost immediately to prepare for the voyage to Europe and war service. On 24 April, she departed New York as the flagship of the first six-ship destroyer division dispatched to Great Britain. She led Porter ( Destroyer No. 59), Davis (Destroyer No. 65), Conyngham (Destroyer No. 58), McDougal (Destroyer No. 54), and Wainwright (Destroyer No. 62) into Queenstown, Ireland, on 4 May and began patrolling the southern approaches to the Irish Sea the next day.Wadsworth's first summer overseas proved to be the most eventful period of her wartime service. She sighted her first U-boat on 18 May, less than two weeks after she began patrols out of Queenstown. Though the destroyer sped to the attack, her adversary submerged and escaped. Three days later, Wadsworth picked up some survivors from HMS Paxton which had been torpedoed and sunk the preceding day. On 7 June, the destroyer caught a glimpse of another enemy submarine just before it submerged and escaped. Between 24 and 27 June, Wadsworth served as part of the escort for the first American troop convoy to reach Europe. Though she scored no definitely provable successes against German submarines, the destroyer made depth charge attacks on four separate occasions in July and a gunfire attack in one other instance. The first two depth-charge attacks on the 10th and 11th obtained no results whatsoever, and the gun attack-on the 20th —netted her the same. However, after sighting a double periscope the following day, she made a depth-charge attack. During that attack, one of the explosions seemed much stronger than those from the other charges she dropped. Moreover, a patch of reddish-brown material rose to the surface. Perhaps the destroyer had damaged a submarine, but no conclusive evidence was found to prove this possibility.Wadsworth made her fourth depth charge attack on a U-boat on 29 July. At about 1725 that afternoon, she dropped several charges in what appeared to be the wake of a submarine proceeding submerged. The conjecture that a U-boat was damaged was supported by the appearance of a large amount of heavy oil on the surface following the attack. Just before 2300 that night, the warship attacked another supposed submarine wake. It was too dark to evaluate the results; but, not long thereafter Trippe (Destroyer No. 33) struck a submerged metallic object which caused her to list 10 degrees temporarily. Later, Wadsworth's wireless operator intercepted messages sent by a German submarine over a period of about half an hour. While none of this evidence can be construed as definitive, it does suggest that she may have damaged a submarine. Early in August, the destroyer concluded her summer of peak activity by escorting the first United States merchant convoy on the last leg of its voyage to Europe. During the mission, on the 16th, the destroyer dropped a barrage on what was thought to be a submarine.For the remainder of the war, her encounters with the enemy were infrequent. In fact, her next submarine contact did not occur until 17 December and, like those before, resulted in no definite damage to the enemy. Although the opening months of 1918 brought no new U-boat contacts, Wadsworth worked hard escorting convoys and patrolling British waters.Early in March, she received a change in assignment. On the 4th, she arrived in Brest, France, whence she operated for the remainder of the war. During that assignment, she recorded only two scrapes with German submarines: the first on 1 June and the second on 25 October. In each case, she dropped depth charges, but could produce no solid proof of damage to the enemy. The war ended on 11 November 1918 when Germany accepted Allied armistice terms.Almost two months later, on 31 December, Wadsworth stood out of Brest to return to the United States and reached Boston on 9 January 1919. Following an extended overhaul, she put to sea on 1 May to serve as one of the picket ships stationed at intervals across the ocean for the transatlantic flight of four Navy-Curtiss flying boats, one of which, NC-4, successfully completed the feat. The destroyer returned home and operated on the east coast through the summer of 1919. On 29 August, Wadsworth was placed in reduced commission at Philadelphia where she remained almost two years. On 9 May 1921, the destroyer returned to active service along the east coast. Just over a year later, on 3 June 1922, Wadsworth was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The ship remained in reserve there until 7 January 1936 when her name was struck from the Navy list. She was sold for scrapping on 30 June 1936 and was broken up the following August.

James Wadsworth was born in 1768 in Durham, Middlesex County, Connecticut. He was the youngest of the three sons of John Noyes Wadsworth, Sr. by his second wife Esther Parsons. His uncle and namesake was James Wadsworth. James' other brothers were his eldest half brother John Noyes Wadsworth Jr., by his father’s first marriage to Susan Camp, and his elder full brother William Wadsworth (1765–1833). James and his brothers are scions of the prominent Wadsworth family of Connecticut, and being a descendant of one of the Founders of Hartford, Connecticut, William Wadsworth (1594–1675), who under the leadership of Pastor Thomas Hooker helped found that city in June 1636. [2]

James Wadsworth was a graduate of Yale University in 1787 at the age of 19. [2]

After graduating from Yale in 1787, Wadsworth traveled north to Montreal, Quebec in Canada to teach for a year. While away his father, John Wadsworth, died and left his sons a substantial inheritance, estimated to be nearly $15,000 each (over $225,000 in modern terms). James moved back to Connecticut to manage his inheritance.

The Genesee Valley Edit

Upon his return to Connecticut in the spring of 1789, James and his brother William were summoned to the home of their father’s prominent and wealthy second cousin, Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth of American Revolutionary War and Continental Congress fame, in Hartford. Jeremiah was considered one of the wealthiest men in Connecticut at the time and was interested in investing in, and financially backing, the efforts of Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham, who in the previous year purchased more than 2,250,000 acres (9,100 km 2 ) of land from the Iroquois Six Nations in Western New York State, known as the "Phelps and Gorham Purchase." Jeremiah adjudged James as having "ambition," "clear mind," and a "tenacious will," and so wanted James and William to be Land Agents on his behalf and to personally move to this virgin territory to survey and improve the land while promoting its settlement as well as manage his 200,000-acre (810 km 2 ) investment. In return, James and William were offered 2,000 acres (8.1 km 2 ) at his cost (.08 per acre) and reduced price for any further purchases, as well as a fee for the sale of Jeremiah’s land.

James and his brother William accepted Jeremiah’s proposal and the following spring, in May 1790, 22-year-old James, his brother William, a black woman named Jenny, Gad Wadsworth, a relative who was in charge of the chattel, and several “axe men” headed west to the Genesee Valley. After several difficult weeks of travel by rivers, streams and over land by Indian trails, they arrived on the banks of the Genesee River at a place the Seneca nation called Big Tree on June 9, 1790. They claimed the land and built a log cabin in a meadow near the east bank of the Genesee River about half a mile west of the present site of "The Homestead" at Geneseo, New York. Beyond the settlements near Fort Niagara, they were the first Europeans to establish a permanent settlement west of Seneca Lake. [3] Both James and his brother William had an innate sense of honor and integrity, even to a fault, as James was involved in two separate duels. James was a theorist, planner, colonist and lover of books while William was more down-to-earth, a working farmer, militia officer and a "man with the common touch." James was the more scholarly of the two, and had a shrewd mind for business and a talented negotiator, while William was a rugged hands-on type with a natural penchant for husbandry, agriculture and public duty.

After the first trees were felled and the log cabin was completed at Big Tree (later renamed Geneseo), Wadsworth immediately began the work for which he was to excel. Starting in the spring of 1791, James traveled to New York City to begin advertising for the sale and settlement of Genesee Valley lands. He then traveled on to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, visiting Massachusetts, and returned to Connecticut, all while frequently encouraging settlement by offering incentives for prospective settlers. In February 1796, James sailed to England to promote settlement, but the dismal economic state of affairs in England prevented any headway. So he proceeded “. to examine the state of agriculture and view the manufacturing towns.” While in Europe, James went to the Netherlands, and met with the proprietors of the Holland Land Company, securing a future deal with them for lands west of the Genesee, once the company had secured the Indian title to these lands. [4]

In December 1796, James returned to New York, remaining in New York City and further soliciting settlers. Late the following summer, he returned to the Genesee Valley escorting several settlers. When James returned, he found his brother, William, had built a large proper cobblestone house for their occupancy, quite different from the first small log cabin they had lived in for over six years. On August 28, 1797, James and William were the host for the Treaty of Big Tree. This treaty effectively extinguished the Indian title to the land west of the Genesee River and created ten reservations for the Seneca in New York State. By 1800, James and William had acquired 32,500 acres (132 km 2 ), most of which was leased to tenant farmers with the option to buy. William served as Town supervisor for 21 years, and built around them an agricultural community based on enlightened principles of soil conservation, selective stock breeding, scientific agricultural methods, aesthetic preservation and public education.

Educator Edit

Wadsworth was known as a man who cherished education and learning throughout his life. He was heavily involved in the promotion of teacher training in Geneseo and starting a primary school there, seeking out the school master, the greater part of whose wages would he paid himself.

In January 1829, he wrote former clerk, Philo Fuller, a State Assemblyman, to urge the passage of legislation to establish county high schools with well-educated teachers. James wrote to him: "To improve the common schools in this state, the employment of more able instructors is indispensable." He lobbied the State's superintendents of public instruction. In 1830, James was selected to represent Livingston County at a New York State Corresponding Committee at Utica, New York. He pressed two issues in particular: "Are Common Schools Worth the Money Paid?" And "Whether to Establish an Institute to Train Teachers." At another meeting in January 1831, he was elected Vice President of the Eighth Senatorial District to investigate the need for institutions for teacher training.

On March 11, 1833, James invested $6,000 of his own capital toward what he hoped would be a start toward the funding of school libraries. James created a trust to compile, print and distribute to the trustees of each common school in New York State courses of popular lectures "adapted to the capacities of children" which could be "conveniently read in half an hour." The lectures were to be on six subjects: On the Application of Science for the Arts, On Agriculture and Horticulture, On the Principles of Legislation, On Political Economy, On Astronomy and Chemistry, and On the Intellectual, Moral and Religious Instruction of the Youth of this State by Means of Common Schools. He also underwrote the cost of publishing and distributing John Nicholson's The Farmer's Assistant and John O. Taylor's The District School in 1834. [5]

In 1838, New York Governor George W. Patterson wrote, “In regard to the origin of the School District Library System of this state, I will say to you, that the whole credit belongs to the Honorable James Wadsworth, of Geneseo. " Patterson insisted that he had just performed his "duty" to obtain a bill permanently earmarking funds for school libraries, over what he considered violent objections. Rather, "the credit of all that has been done belongs to the praise-worthy efforts of Mr. Wadsworth." Wadsworth wanted a library "open and free for the gratuitous use as well of the inhabitants of the County of Livingston" and also wanted a new public library to be located in Geneseo. He privately funded the Geneseo Atheneum in 1842, which opened with books, scientific equipment and mineral specimens, which were to be available to all. He opened this library to promote "the moral and intellectual instruction of the young and the diffusion of science and literature." His own books and specimens became the basis for it and the library/museum was later renamed the Wadsworth Library. [6] [7]


The second of five children born to John Wordsworth and Ann Cookson, William Wordsworth was born on 7 April 1770 in what is now named Wordsworth House in Cockermouth, Cumberland, now known as Cumbria, [1] part of the scenic region in northwestern England known as the Lake District. William's sister, the poet and diarist Dorothy Wordsworth, to whom he was close all his life, was born the following year, and the two were baptised together. They had three other siblings: Richard, the eldest, who became a lawyer John, born after Dorothy, who went to sea and died in 1805 when the ship of which he was captain, the Earl of Abergavenny, was wrecked off the south coast of England and Christopher, the youngest, who entered the Church and rose to be Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. [2]

Wordsworth's father was a legal representative of James Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale, and, through his connections, lived in a large mansion in the small town. He was frequently away from home on business, so the young William and his siblings had little involvement with him and remained distant from him until his death in 1783. [3] However, he did encourage William in his reading, and in particular set him to commit large portions of verse to memory, including works by Milton, Shakespeare and Spenser. William was also allowed to use his father's library. William also spent time at his mother's parents' house in Penrith, Cumberland, where he was exposed to the moors, but did not get along with his grandparents or his uncle, who also lived there. His hostile interactions with them distressed him to the point of contemplating suicide. [4]

Wordsworth was taught to read by his mother and attended, first, a tiny school of low quality in Cockermouth, then a school in Penrith for the children of upper-class families, where he was taught by Ann Birkett, who insisted on instilling in her students traditions that included pursuing both scholarly and local activities, especially the festivals around Easter, May Day and Shrove Tuesday. Wordsworth was taught both the Bible and the Spectator, but little else. It was at the school in Penrith that he met the Hutchinsons, including Mary, who later became his wife. [5]

After the death of Wordsworth's mother, in 1778, his father sent him to Hawkshead Grammar School in Lancashire (now in Cumbria) and sent Dorothy to live with relatives in Yorkshire. She and William did not meet again for nine years.

Wordsworth made his debut as a writer in 1787 when he published a sonnet in The European Magazine. That same year he began attending St John's College, Cambridge. He received his BA degree in 1791. [6] He returned to Hawkshead for the first two summers of his time at Cambridge, and often spent later holidays on walking tours, visiting places famous for the beauty of their landscape. In 1790 he went on a walking tour of Europe, during which he toured the Alps extensively, and visited nearby areas of France, Switzerland, and Italy. [7]

In November 1791, Wordsworth visited Revolutionary France and became enchanted with the Republican movement. He fell in love with a French woman, Annette Vallon, who, in 1792, gave birth to their daughter Caroline. Financial problems and Britain's tense relations with France forced him to return to England alone the following year. [8] The circumstances of his return and his subsequent behaviour raised doubts as to his declared wish to marry Annette. However, he supported her and his daughter as best he could in later life. The Reign of Terror left Wordsworth thoroughly disillusioned with the French Revolution and the outbreak of armed hostilities between Britain and France prevented him from seeing Annette and his daughter for some years.

With the Peace of Amiens again allowing travel to France, in 1802 Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy visited Annette and Caroline in Calais. The purpose of the visit was to prepare Annette for the fact of his forthcoming marriage to Mary Hutchinson. [8] Afterwards he wrote the sonnet "It is a beauteous evening, calm and free", recalling a seaside walk with the 9-year-old Caroline, whom he had never seen before that visit. Mary was anxious that Wordsworth should do more for Caroline. Upon Caroline's marriage, in 1816, Wordsworth settled £30 a year on her (equivalent to £2,313 as of 2019), payments which continued until 1835, when they were replaced by a capital settlement. [9] [10]

The year 1793 saw the first publication of poems by Wordsworth, in the collections An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches. In 1795 he received a legacy of £900 from Raisley Calvert and became able to pursue a career as a poet.

It was also in 1795 that he met Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Somerset. The two poets quickly developed a close friendship. For two years from 1795, William and his sister Dorothy lived at Racedown House in Dorset—a property of the Pinney family—to the west of Pilsdon Pen. They walked in the area for about two hours every day, and the nearby hills consoled Dorothy as she pined for the fells of her native Lakeland. She wrote,

"We have hills which, seen from a distance almost take the character of mountains, some cultivated nearly to their summits, others in their wild state covered with furze and broom. These delight me the most as they remind me of our native wilds." [12]

In 1797, the pair moved to Alfoxton House, Somerset, just a few miles away from Coleridge's home in Nether Stowey. Together Wordsworth and Coleridge (with insights from Dorothy) produced Lyrical Ballads (1798), an important work in the English Romantic movement. [13] The volume gave neither Wordsworth's nor Coleridge's name as author. One of Wordsworth's most famous poems, "Tintern Abbey", was published in this collection, along with Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner". The second edition, published in 1800, had only Wordsworth listed as the author, and included a preface to the poems. [14] It was augmented significantly in the next edition, published in 1802. [15] In this preface, which some scholars consider a central work of Romantic literary theory, Wordsworth discusses what he sees as the elements of a new type of verse, one that is based on the ordinary language "really used by men" while avoiding the poetic diction of much 18th-century verse. Wordsworth also gives his famous definition of poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility", and calls his own poems in the book "experimental". A fourth and final edition of Lyrical Ballads was published in 1805. [16]

Between 1795–1797, Wordsworth wrote his only play, The Borderers, a verse tragedy set during the reign of King Henry III of England, when Englishmen in the North Country came into conflict with Scottish border reivers. He attempted to get the play staged in November 1797, but it was rejected by Thomas Harris, the manager of the Covent Garden Theatre, who proclaimed it "impossible that the play should succeed in the representation". The rebuff was not received lightly by Wordsworth and the play was not published until 1842, after substantial revision. [17]

I travelled among unknown men,
In lands beyond the sea
Nor, England! did I know till then
What love I bore to thee.

'T is past, that melancholy dream!
Nor will I quit thy shore
A second time, for still I seem
To love thee more and more.

Among thy mountains did I feel
The joy of my desire
And she I cherished turned her wheel
Beside an English fire.

Thy mornings showed, thy nights concealed,
The bowers where Lucy played
And thine too is the last green field
That Lucy's eyes surveyed.

Wordsworth, Dorothy and Coleridge travelled to Germany in the autumn of 1798. While Coleridge was intellectually stimulated by the journey, its main effect on Wordsworth was to produce homesickness. [8] During the harsh winter of 1798–99 Wordsworth lived with Dorothy in Goslar, and, despite extreme stress and loneliness, began work on the autobiographical piece that was later titled The Prelude. He wrote a number of other famous poems in Goslar, including "The Lucy poems". In the Autumn of 1799, Wordsworth and his sister returned to England and visited the Hutchinson family at Sockburn. When Coleridge arrived back in England he travelled to the North with their publisher Joseph Cottle to meet Wordsworth and undertake a proposed tour of the Lake District. This was the immediate cause of the brother and sister's settling at Dove Cottage in Grasmere in the Lake District, this time with another poet, Robert Southey, nearby. Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey came to be known as the "Lake Poets". [19] Throughout this period many of Wordsworth's poems revolved around themes of death, endurance, separation and grief.

In 1802, Lowther's heir, William Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale, paid the £4,000 owed to Wordsworth's father through Lowther's failure to pay his aide. [20] It was this repayment that afforded Wordsworth the financial means to marry. On 4 October, following his visit with Dorothy to France to arrange matters with Annette, Wordsworth married his childhood friend Mary Hutchinson. [8] Dorothy continued to live with the couple and grew close to Mary. The following year Mary gave birth to the first of five children, three of whom predeceased her and William:

  • Rev. John Wordsworth MA (18 June 1803 – 25 July 1875). Vicar of Brigham, Cumberland and Rector of Plumbland, Cumberland. Buried at Highgate Cemetery (west side). Married four times:
    1. Isabella Curwen (died 1848) had six children: Jane, Henry, William, John, Charles and Edward.
    2. Helen Ross (died 1854). No children.
    3. Mary Ann Dolan (died after 1858) had one daughter Dora (born 1858).
    4. Mary Gamble. No children.
    (16 August 1804 – 9 July 1847). Married Edward Quillinan in 1841.
  • Thomas Wordsworth (15 June 1806 – 1 December 1812).
  • Catherine Wordsworth (6 September 1808 – 4 June 1812).
  • William "Willy" Wordsworth (12 May 1810 – 1883). Married Fanny Graham and had four children: Mary Louisa, William, Reginald, Gordon

Wordsworth had for years been making plans to write a long philosophical poem in three parts, which he intended to call The Recluse. In 1798–99 he started an autobiographical poem, which he referred to as the "poem to Coleridge" and which he planned would serve as an appendix to a larger work called The Recluse. In 1804 he began expanding this autobiographical work, having decided to make it a prologue rather than an appendix. He completed this work, now generally referred to as the first version of The Prelude, in 1805, but refused to publish such a personal work until he had completed the whole of The Recluse. The death of his brother John, also in 1805, affected him strongly and may have influenced his decisions about these works.

Wordsworth's philosophical allegiances as articulated in The Prelude and in such shorter works as "Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey" have been a source of critical debate. It was long supposed that Wordsworth relied chiefly on Coleridge for philosophical guidance, but more recently scholars have suggested that Wordsworth's ideas may have been formed years before he and Coleridge became friends in the mid-1790s. In particular, while he was in revolutionary Paris in 1792, the 22-year-old Wordsworth made the acquaintance of the mysterious traveller John "Walking" Stewart (1747–1822), [21] who was nearing the end of his thirty years of wandering, on foot, from Madras, India, through Persia and Arabia, across Africa and Europe, and up through the fledgling United States. By the time of their association, Stewart had published an ambitious work of original materialist philosophy entitled The Apocalypse of Nature (London, 1791), to which many of Wordsworth's philosophical sentiments may well be indebted.

In 1807 Wordsworth published Poems, in Two Volumes, including "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood". Up to this point, Wordsworth was known only for Lyrical Ballads, and he hoped that this new collection would cement his reputation. Its reception was lukewarm, however.

In 1810, Wordsworth and Coleridge were estranged over the latter's opium addiction, [8] and in 1812, his son Thomas died at the age of 6, six months after the death of 3-year-old Catherine. The following year he received an appointment as Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland, and the stipend of £400 a year made him financially secure, albeit at the cost of political independence. In 1813, he and his family, including Dorothy, moved to Rydal Mount, Ambleside (between Grasmere and Rydal Water), where he spent the rest of his life. [8]

In 1814 Wordsworth published The Excursion as the second part of the three-part work The Recluse, even though he had not completed the first part or the third part, and never did. He did, however, write a poetic Prospectus to The Recluse in which he laid out the structure and intention of the whole work. The Prospectus contains some of Wordsworth's most famous lines on the relation between the human mind and nature:

. my voice proclaims
How exquisitely the individual Mind
(And the progressive powers perhaps no less
Of the whole species) to the external World
Is fitted:—and how exquisitely, too—
Theme this but little heard of among Men,
The external World is fitted to the Mind
And the creation (by no lower name
Can it be called) which they with blended might
Accomplish . [22]

Some modern critics [23] suggest that there was a decline in his work beginning around the mid-1810s, perhaps because most of the concerns that characterised his early poems (loss, death, endurance, separation and abandonment) had been resolved in his writings and his life. [24] By 1820, he was enjoying considerable success accompanying a reversal in the contemporary critical opinion of his earlier works.

The poet William Blake, who knew of Wordsworth's work, was struck by Wordsworth's boldness in centering his poetry on the human mind. In response to Wordsworth's poetic program that, “when we look / Into our Minds, into the Mind of Man- / My haunt, and the main region of my song” (The Excursion), William Blake wrote to his friend Henry Crabb Robinson that the passage "“caused him a bowel complaint which nearly killed him”. [25]

Following the death of his friend the painter William Green in 1823, Wordsworth also mended his relations with Coleridge. [26] The two were fully reconciled by 1828, when they toured the Rhineland together. [8] Dorothy suffered from a severe illness in 1829 that rendered her an invalid for the remainder of her life. Coleridge and Charles Lamb both died in 1834, their loss being a difficult blow to Wordsworth. The following year saw the passing of James Hogg. Despite the death of many contemporaries, the popularity of his poetry ensured a steady stream of young friends and admirers to replace those he lost.

Wordsworth's youthful political radicalism, unlike Coleridge's, never led him to rebel against his religious upbringing. He remarked in 1812 that he was willing to shed his blood for the established Church of England, reflected in his Ecclesiastical Sketches of 1822. This religious conservatism also colours The Excursion (1814), a long poem that became extremely popular during the nineteenth century. It features three central characters: the Wanderer the Solitary, who has experienced the hopes and miseries of the French Revolution and the Pastor, who dominates the last third of the poem. [27]

Wordsworth remained a formidable presence in his later years. In 1837, the Scottish poet and playwright Joanna Baillie reflected on her long acquaintance with Wordsworth. "He looks like a man that one must not speak to unless one has some sensible thing to say. However he does occasionally converse cheerfully & well and when one knows how benevolent & excellent he is, it disposes one to be very much pleased with him." [28]

In 1838, Wordsworth received an honorary doctorate in Civil Law from the University of Durham and the following year he was awarded the same honorary degree by the University of Oxford, when John Keble praised him as the "poet of humanity", praise greatly appreciated by Wordsworth. [8] [29] (It has been argued that Wordsworth was a great influence on Keble's immensely popular book of devotional poetry, The Christian Year (1827). [30] ) In 1842, the government awarded him a Civil List pension of £300 a year.

Following the death of Robert Southey in 1843 Wordsworth became Poet Laureate. He initially refused the honour, saying that he was too old, but accepted when the Prime Minister, Robert Peel, assured him that "you shall have nothing required of you". Wordsworth thus became the only poet laureate to write no official verses. The sudden death of his daughter Dora in 1847 at age 42 was difficult for the aging poet to take and in his depression, he completely gave up writing new material.

William Wordsworth died at home at Rydal Mount from an aggravated case of pleurisy on 23 April 1850, [31] [32] and was buried at St Oswald's Church, Grasmere. His widow, Mary, published his lengthy autobiographical "Poem to Coleridge" as The Prelude several months after his death. [33] Though it failed to interest people at the time, it has since come to be widely recognised as his masterpiece.

Composer Alicia Van Buren (1860–1922) used text by Wordsworth for her song "In Early Spring". [34]

Wordsworth has appeared as a character in works of fiction, including:

  • William Kinsolving – Mister Christian. 1996 – The Eyre Affair. 2001 – The Grave Tattoo. 2006 – The Wordsmiths at Gorsemere. 2008

Isaac Asimov's 1966 novelisation of the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage sees Dr. Peter Duval quoting Wordsworth's The Prelude as the miniaturised submarine sails through the cerebral fluid surrounding a human brain, comparing it to the "strange seas of thought".

Taylor Swift's 2020 album Folklore mentions Wordsworth in her bonus track "The Lakes", which is thought to be about the Lake District. [35]

Wadsworth I - History

Museums hold a special place in American culture, and they are frequently used to honor important artists and preserve the shared history and past of people around the world. In the United States during the 19th and 20th century there was a significant increase in the number of museums opening up across our growing country. Natural history museums and art galleries started to open their doors in all the major cities and towns across the country. One great example of this is the Wadsworth Atheneum located in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. The state of Connecticut was a popular cultural and economic center of America at the time, and it deserved to have a world class museum of its own as well. One enterprising man named Daniel Wadsworth decided to give the state just that.

Born in 1771, Daniel Wadsworth grew up in a very successful and wealthy family among Connecticut’s upper echelon. He spent his younger years as an amateur artist and traveled extensively, before deciding to make architecture his career. In 1841, he purchased some land off of Main Street in what is now downtown Hartford, and decided to create an art museum for the public.(Gaddis 99) Wadsworth wanted to make the museum into an Atheneum, which would include a library, cultural center, and an art school as well. The Wadsworth Atheneum opened its doors for the first time in 1842 and was officially the first public art museum in the nation, an honor it continues to celebrate to this day. The gothic architecture and wide grand galleries made the Wadsworth perfect for visitors to slowly walk through its hallways to view all the art on display.

As America began to grow as a country and settlers covered the continent, art museums and galleries became more popular and started to pop up in every major town and city. There was a widespread civic push among the wealthy class to share their personal and private collections of art and artifacts with the public, and Hartford soon had some serious competition. Almost equidistant between the major centers of New York City and Boston, the Wadsworth Atheneum had plenty of foot traffic to keep it busy, but it was soon forced to compete with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Fine Art in Boston.

St. Francis in Ecstasy by Caravaggio

While the Met and the MFA were both opened after the Wadsworth, in 1870 and 1907 respectively, the two museums soon became more popular and housed more works of art than the Atheneum. While only a few museums around the world could hope to match the acquisition and operating budgets that these two powerhouses have today, curators and directors at the Wadsworth had to be fast and creative with new art and artists before anyone else to remain relevant. They had a stroke of genius in 1942 when they purchased the painting St. Francis of Assisi on Ecstasy , by the now famous Italian Renaissance master Caravaggio. Their acquisition of this painting was actually the first purchase of a Caravaggio by any American institution, and museums across the country scrambled to do the same.(Temple 90) The painting brought a significant boost to their admittance, and people still are amazed by the work today. The Wadsworth continued to have to compete with other larger museums, but they were able stay true to their roots while expanding on their world class exhibits.

Morgan Hall Gallery 20th Century

Daniel Wadsworth passed away in 1848, just six short years after the Atheneum was opened. Before he died, he became the patron of artists Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church, two of the most famous and prolific painters of the Hudson River School. The original collection at the Atheneum was built based on the acquisition of paintings from these two artists, but future acquisitions diversified the artwork on display. There were also significant expansions made to the Wadsworth buildings as well.(Wadsworth “History”) The Watkinson Library, Samuel Colt memorial, and J.P. Morgan memorial were all completed by the early 20th century, and increased the size of the museums for visitors to roam through and attend events.(Wadsworth “History”) There were other organizations inside the original complex, but when they left after the 1940’s, the Wadsworth became exclusively an art museum, giving it the opportunity and space to show off their thousands of pieces of fantastic art.

As the world moved into the 21st century, the Wadsworth continued to hold its place as one of the top museums in the country, and one of the finest art museums in the world. They continued to add to their collection and expanded into new genres, making sure there was art for everyone within its wall. Today, thousands of visitors and art lovers visit each year, something Daniel Wadsworth could only have dreamed of all those years ago when he first envisioned his art museum right by the Connecticut river.

Thanks for reading! If you want to learn more about the Wadsworth Atheneum, including their visiting hours and details about their collection, check out their website at

Or visit their digital archive at

Gaddis, Eugene, “Foremost Upon This Continent: The Founding of the Wadsworth Atheneum” Connecticut History. Sep 1985, Vol. 26, p 99-114.

“History.” Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT. Accessed February 12, 2020. https://www.thewadsworth.org/about/history/.

“Temple of Delight The Wadsworth Atheneum.” The Economist , vol. 417, 3 Oct. 2015.

Fort Wadsworth

Fort Wadsworth is located in Staten Island and is deemed one of the oldest military forts in the history of the United States. Fort Wadsworth does not receive nearly enough recognition of as other forts simply because no actual battles have been fought there. However, it has rich history that dates all the way back to Dutch times. It is important to begin the discussion of Fort Wadsworth by mentioning its earliest roots with the Dutch. Because it was originally built and owned by the Dutch in the 1600s, there is not much research to be shown from that long ago. Most of the research comes from when it was later fortified by the British in 1779 and then eventually closed down in 1994[1]. According to the National Park Service, it is one of the oldest military installations in the nation and it occupies 226 acres on the northeastern shore of Staten Island, directly adjacent to the Verrazano Bridge which leads into Brooklyn[2]. Upon visitation to Fort Wadsworth there are various trails to take that can lead to different sectors of the fort. Each sector holds its own very special part of history and even holds various weapons such as cannons and different types of guns. These items were once used at some point in history, however, now they are open to the public. In fact, tours are offered every day to bring you to the 9 biggest points in Fort Wadsworth: Training Mortar, fort Tompkins, battery Duane, six pounder, south cliff battery, battery weed, torpedo shed/wharf, north cliff battery, and mount sec house[3]. These locations are points of interest for those visiting Fort Wadsworth. Each stop has their own unique history and has artifacts that was used at that part of the fort. For example, at Battery Duane located within Fort Wadsworth, there is one of the first counter-weighted “disappearing” gun batters in the United States. Once the gun is fired, it is lowered so it is not as visible to the enemy. This was constructed in 1896 and is still located within Fort Wadsworth.[4] Similar to battery Duane, other points that are in the tour of Fort Wadsworth hold old weapons, whereas other points, such as the Mount Sec House, were used to house soldiers or servants.[5] All of these points are open to the public and serve as good resources for anyone who is interested in learning more about Fort Wadsworth.

Fort Wadsworth is the oldest military location in the country. Existing research about Fort Wadsworth states that in the 17 th century, guns were mounted in the place of where Fort Wadsworth is right now[6]. This was the earliest origins of the fort. It is believed that Fort Wadsworth was originally built with the intent of keeping our enemies from the new colonizers, the Indians to be specific. The Indians at the time were still living within the same area as the Dutch colonizers, which made tensions escalate rather quickly[7]. The Indians were known to have issues with the colonizers because they did not want to be pushed off their land. With this being said, according to A History of Fort Wadsworth, New York Harbor, the native Indians proved to be one of the biggest obstacles for those living in Staten Island in its earliest years. In fact, there were three separate attempts to establish a fort where present day Fort Wadsworth is, which were all destroyed and attacked by the Indians. After the first attack, they decided they were going to build another fort which the authorities of New Amsterdam wrote saying “whereas a short time ago, some of our people on Staten Island have been murdered by the Savages. Therefore, to prevent further mishaps and to protect the people still living there, we have judged it very advisable and proper to erect upon the said Island a small redoubt at so small an expense as possible”[8]. However, once again because of the Indians, they were not able to build the fort without it being attacked[9]. As more Dutch colonists attempted to establish themselves in Staten Island, the Indians began to fight back. As the attacks became more frequent, many people chose to leave Staten Island and head to present day Manhattan[10]. Despite many people leaving, some people chose to stay. However, the governor Peter Stuyvesant said that the resident number was “too small to justify even a minute force”[11]. Finally, by the 1660s a fourth attempt to establish a fort was successful about one mile south of present day fort Wadsworth. In the beginning Governor Stuyvesant was not happy because he did not want to build a fort to protect an Island where barely anyone was living. However, in April of 1663 Governor Stuyvesant received a letter from the directors of the West India Company which stated, “For the sake of greater safety, we consider it highly necessary and have recommended in the enclosure, that proper attention be paid to the safety and protection of the mouths of the rivers on Long Island and Staten Island”[12]. From this moment on, the Fort began to be built in order to not only protect the people living on Staten Island from internal enemies, such as the Indians, but also protect them from external enemies, the British. The fort would not be named Fort Wadsworth for another almost 200 years. This fort ended up being one of the main army bases during the British attacks that would happen fairly soon. Soon after this, the English would invade and Stuyvesant would surrender in 1664.

Following the British takeover, not much happened with Fort Wadsworth for another 100 years. According to the national park service, Fort Wadsworth was fortified by the British in 1779 and it was a prime location for the British in the Revolutionary War[13]. In fact, British used the fort as a staging area and they would use both Staten Island and Long Island to set up ships in an effort to attack New York. As we know, eventually the British surrendered, granting the colonies their freedom. Fort Wadsworth was then handed back to America to be used as they please. Fast forward another 33 years to the war of 1812, and for a reason that is still unknown to historians today, Fort Wadsworth was never attacked. The British chose to leave Fort Wadsworth alone and chose to attack and burn Washington as opposed to New York[14]. During this war, Fort Wadsworth as mainly used to house men as they were preparing for battle. At this point in time, Fort Wadsworth was capable of holding over 750 men. However, only about 558 were recorded to have stayed there during the war of 1812[15]. It is important to note that not one battle was fought at the grounds of Fort Wadsworth. Instead, during this time it was used to house the men, watch the harbor for British ships, and to hold artillery and weapons. Whether this was intentional or not is unknown to historians. However, this fact sets Fort Wadsworth apart from all the other forts. To end the discussion of the 19 th century, it is imperative to talk about the role Fort Wadsworth played during the Civil War. Many soldiers were housed at Fort Wadsworth. In fact, by 1863, the post’s numbers rose to 1400 men and reached its highest number of soldiers, 1,921 by the following February[16]. It was at this point that Fort Wadsworth was given its name. In fact, according to the national park service website “In 1865, the name Fort Wadsworth was given to honor Brevet Major General James Wadsworth, who was mortally wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness during the Civil war”[17]. The fort was officially purchased by the government in 1847[18]. Similar to the war of 1812, no battles were fought at Fort Wadsworth.

Fort Wadsworth would see an unprecedented amount of change in the 20 th century. Although this would be around the time it is closed as an active fort, it would live to see a great amount of transformation. For starters, Fort Wadsworth experienced two world wars in the first half of the 1900s. Not much happened with Fort Wadsworth during World War 1. However, according to the national park service website, shortly after World War 1, Fort Wadsworth became an infantry post[19]. It was during World War Two that Fort Wadsworth played quite an interesting role. For starters, the coast soldiers continued to man the seacoast defenses and oversee the New York harbor all throughout World War Two[20]. In order to understand the role Fort Wadsworth played during World War Two, it is important to provide a brief history of World War Two itself. The United States was engrossed in the middle of a world war. The United States and Italy were on two opposing sides. During the last three years of the war, 375,000 Germans and Italian prisoners came to the United States from the battlefields of Africa and Europe.[21] They were processed at entry ports once they arrived in the country and were immediately escorted to camps throughout the nation wherever their labor was needed. They were used for mainly war time needs. However, in 1943, it had been decided that everyone who was considered an Italian prisoner of war, would fight for the side of the allies[22]. This would mean the Italian prisoners of war were helping fight for the United States of America. However, many people had problems with this. Numerous soldiers were placed at Fort Wadsworth. The United States Army created Italian Service Unites (ISU) to organize this new help. Members of the ISU were paid about $8 per month, they were allowed visitors from relatives, lenient mail regulation and the opportunity to leave the base so long as they were escorted by an American military escort[23].

Members of the ISU were used United States army uniforms. Italy was stitched in white letters on the left sleeve. The hat also had a green and red cloth patch on it with “Italy” written in white letters on it in order to represent the Italian flag. Fort Wadsworth was soon named the headquarters of the ISU and appointed Brigadier General John M. Eager as chief administrator. The General worked in the embassy in Rome and spoke fluent Italian and was able to communicate with the prisoners. This proved to be extremely helpful when tensions rose among the American soldiers and the prisoners. Both the Americans living outside the Fort Wadsworth area and the soldiers living within Fort Wadsworth expressed serious concerns with the Italians. They were not ready to trust the fact that they were working with them as allies. There were high tensions and often times there were numerous fights that erupted between the two. Italian Americans who were living outside the area, showed kindness and often invited them outside with them in order to help them in forming relationships with the Americans. By 1944 tensions had flared down and the Italian soldiers were beginning to form relationships with the churches and the people directly outside the Fort Wadsworth area. The article that spoke about the Italian Prisoners within Fort Wadsworth, The Reflections on Italian Prisoners of War: Fort Wadsworth 1943-1946, ended with a beautiful quote describing one of the most valuable things that happened at this fort “Yet despite the tensions and frustrations of the war years, many friendships formed at Fort Wadsworth continued years after the war had ended”[24].

After World War Two had ended, there was not much going on at Fort Wadsworth. In fact, the next major thing that would happen at Fort Wadsworth would be its closing. It was used for minor things such as overseeing Nike missile firing batteries and schooling. However, in 1994 the Navy turned over Fort Wadsworth to the National Park Service’s Gateway Recreation Area[25]. Although there were several rumors of its closing in previous years, once it was actually released that it would no longer be used as an active fort, the public responded in a way that was unexpected. There were protests and groups were even formed in an effort to save Fort Wadsworth. People were absolutely devastated that Fort Wadsworth was closing as an active fort. In fact, as soon as rumors circulated about the closing of Fort Wadsworth, a newspaper article was released in 1972 with the title “Longest-Run Fort, Wadsworth, is Closing!”. The article states “Meanwhile two Save Fort Wadsworth committees are protesting the army’s proposed deactivation of the fort, which has served under three flags- Dutch, English and the American”[26]. The newspaper quoted Col. Richard a. Chidlaw as to why the Fort was closing. He said, “a reduction in military strength in association with our withdrawals in Vietnam”. The article went on to interview other people in the Staten Island area, on their feelings about the closing: “Besides breaking the fort’s link with the past, Mr. Amodeo says, the closing will inconvenience more than 1,700 military men from Staten Island and New Jersey who used the ports facilities”. By the 1990s, another article was released talking about the plans to turn the fort into a park.[27] The article stated something that truly resonates and is important to remember when looking back at the history of Fort Wadsworth, “The 300-year old fort, which never fired a shot in anger, will become the newest national parks….’The question we always get is, what famous battles were fought here?’ says Roger Scott, a National Park Service public affairs specialist. ‘And the best answer we can give is, well the fort did its job so well that no one bothered to attack’”[28]

Fort Wadsworth, rich in history, is one of the most special places in New York. It has served under three flags, five wars, and has seen New York not only develop as a city but as a microcosm to change and development in the United States of America. It served as a microcosm because as the United States of America changed, so did Fort Wadsworth. Despite the numerous challenges and oppositions faced such as wars and enemy invasions, it remained standing tall ready for anything that was going to happen. This is pretty significant and symbolic because this too, is how the United States of America came to be. As previously stated, what made Fort Wadsworth so unique was its ability to maintain peace in times of war. The fact that a battle was never fought at this fort, yet it was revered as one of the greatest forts, goes to show just how special Fort Wadsworth is. It represented durability, strength and hope in the face of some of the darkest times of history in the United States of America.

[1] Seton Hall University, Department of History, Academic Integrity Policy, https://www.nps.gov/gate/learn/historyculture/ftwad.htm, accessed November 8, 2017

[2] Seton Hall University, Department of History, Academic Integrity Policy, https://www.nps.gov/gate/learn/historyculture/ftwad.htm, accessed November 8, 2017

[6] Frederick R. Black, “Historic Resource Study: A History of Fort Wadsworth, New York Harbor”, (1983)

[7] Frederick R. Black, “Historic Resource Study: A History of Fort Wadsworth, New York Harbor”, (1983)

02. Our Team

William S. Wadsworth

Principal of the Wadsworth Homestead

For twenty years, Will Wadsworth has curated extraordinary weddings and events in the Genesee Valley. He managed Sweet Briar Celebrations for 12 years before taking on the Wadsworth Homestead full-time in 2012. Through the years he has built a sterling reputation for his personal integrity and dedication to customer service. Will leads a dedicated and professional team that has been with him for over 10 years.

Famous for being calm, cool, and collected, Will’s comprehensive event management experience assures that your special day will be everything you dreamed it would be.

Louise Wadsworth

Manager of Marketing and Communications

Louise comes to the Homestead with a wide variety of experience in business and community development. Married to Will for 35 years, they have worked together in several businesses over the years. You’ll find Louise in any number of roles - behind the scenes - at the Wadsworth Homestead. Always up for a new business idea or creative challenge, her focus at the Homestead is promotion and business development.

Jeff & Lisa Bleier

Manager of Catering

Jeff and Lisa Bleier, proprietors of the Caledonia Village Inn, bring over 40 years of food and event planning experience to the Homestead. They are known throughout the region for their commitment to excellence and artful presentation. Even more important they continue to grow through constant education and passion for what they do. Lisa will coordinate all the details of your event including everything from "tabletop to palette". Jeff as the head chef will expertly prepare the cuisine. He is also an award-winning ice sculptor, so check out their website for examples of his work! Their commitment to creating unique menus and presenting food artfully will ensure an amazing event you will never forget.

Keep up the good fight, Wadsworth!

June Chamber Luncheon

Nonprofit Fair

The Galaxy Restaurant & Banquet Center
201 Park Center Drive

It’s a Wadsworth Chamber tradition – the Nonprofit Fair. Discover the amazing nonprofit organizations that provide much-needed services to our community and county.

Menu: Swiss steak, redskin mashed potatoes, baby carrots, garden salad, rolls and orange dreamsicle dessert.

Mochas & Mentors

Rise and Grind
120 High Street, Downtown Wadsworth

Due to COVID, 10 people are permitted in the Rise and Grind meeting room at one time. Kindly RSVP to Matt Addis if you would like to attend in person: [email protected]

Guest Mento r: DJ Santiago, Oswald Companies

(It’s our 37th Annual Golf Outing)

10353 Rawiga Road, Seville

To register your foursome and/or offer sponsorship,

or for a pdf document, click HERE

For COVID-19 Pandemic Updates Visit the

City of Wadsworth’s web page

For Personal Protective Equipment Vendors Visit the

Medina County Economic Development’s web page

Wadsworth Public Library is kicking off a series of projects in partnership with the City of Wadsworth, the Wadsworth City School District, and the Wadsworth Area Chamber of Commerce to build community resourcefulness, resilience, and hope in this time of great need. Wadsworth Knows How is designed to connect those in need with community members looking to help, as we work together to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath

Paul Revere’s House

Amid the growing political tensions in Boston, Revere continued to strengthen his roots in the colonial harbor city. In 1770, he bought the now-landmarked Paul Revere House at 19 North Square for his growing family.

Revere lived in his North End home on and off for 30 years as his family continued to evolve. After the death of his wife, Sarah, in 1773, he married Rachel Walker and they had eight additional children.

Revere sold the home in 1800, and it was purchased by his great-grandson roughly a century later to ensure it was preserved. The 1680 structure still stands today as the oldest building in downtown Boston.


The Wadsworth Center evolved from the state's Antitoxin Laboratory, established in 1901 to standardize and manufacture antitoxin, the prevailing treatment for communicable diseases such as diphtheria and anthrax. In 1914, the organization was designated the Division of Laboratories and Research, and Augustus B. Wadsworth was named director.

Dr. Wadsworth, who remained director until 1945, set a precedent for excellence in all matters scientific. He also urged his staff to pursue original investigations, thus captivating their curiosity and capitalizing on their intellectual assets. Dr. Wadsworth understood that research, public health testing and science education were complementary, creating a synergy that continues to inform the vibrant scientific community that now bears his name.

Smallpox. Cholera. Typhoid. Tuberculosis. At the turn of the 20th century, death frequently arrived in these guises. For infants and children, though, no infection was feared more than diphtheria, whose microbial toxin coursed through young bodies, ultimately strangling its victims. In New York City alone in the 1890s, there were some 1,000 deaths a year from the disease.

As the germ theory of disease emerged from Europe and took hold in the U.S., the first science-based remedies for infectious diseases were made possible. Among the earliest successes was antitoxin for the treatment of diphtheria. In 1901, the very year that the first Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology was awarded to the German microbiologist Emil Behring for his discoveries that led to the development of diphtheria antitoxin, New York State established a laboratory to produce and distribute the remedy. The Antitoxin Laboratory is the forerunner of today's Wadsworth Center laboratories.

"The laboratory performs a three-fold purpose in saving lives, preventing disease, and in the education of the profession and public toward a prompt and more efficient prevention and a better treatment of these diseases [diphtheria and tetanus]."

Daniel Lewis, M.D.
Commissioner of Health, 1901-1904

The Antitoxin Laboratory was housed in a modest, two-story brick building in a residential neighborhood on Yates Street in Albany, New York. Horses used in the production of antitoxin were stabled there, necessitating that any sterile work be conducted in space sublet from the nearby Bender Hygienic Laboratory.

Several additions were made to the original structure over time, allowing the antitoxin production and other diagnostic services that had been subcontracted to Bender to merge in 1906 at Yates Street under the banner of the State Hygienic Laboratory. As early as 1909, neighbors of the facility complained about the animals, and the building ultimately was declared a nuisance by the city of Albany in 1913, the same year in which the state purchased a farm in Guilderland, now the site of Wadsworth Center's Griffin Laboratory.

To manufacture diphtheria antitoxin, horses were inoculated with the toxin produced by the bacillus Corynebacterium diphtheriae, the causative agent of diphtheria.

In response to this antigen, the animal's immune system generated specific antibodies, or antitoxin, to fight the infection. By bleeding the horse and processing the blood, the antibody-containing serum was available for the prevention and treatment of the disease in humans.

The laboratory's first director, Herbert D. Pease, M.D., started the process by personally immunizing 15 horses with diphtheria toxin in October, 1901. In February, 1902, the first shipment of diphtheria antitoxin was sent to the Willard State Psychiatric Hospital, where the disease had been present for years. Four months later, the first tetanus antitoxin was made available to physicians.

The careful manufacture of diphtheria antitoxin and other preparations involved, among other processes, examining the products for sterility (top) and potency (bottom). An incident in 1901 in St. Louis, Missouri, proved how dire were the consequences of ignoring such procedures.

Diphtheria antitoxin contaminated with tetanus bacilli killed nearly a dozen children in that city, leading to the passage in 1902 of the federal Biologics Control Act, which required that manufacturers be licensed and their processes be approved by the Public Health Service.

From the Antitoxin Laboratory's earliest days, its preparations were praised for their high quality and its methods followed by other laboratories in the U.S. and elsewhere.

In 1903, the total output of diphtheria antitoxin was more than double the amount in the first nine months of the laboratory's existence. This included a shipment in early November of sufficient quantity to inoculate the entire population of the Elmira State Reformatory where the disease had been diagnosed close to 2,000 bottles of 1,500 units each were forwarded within three days.

State and charitable institutions, as well private patients who could not afford the treatment, were given antitoxin free of charge. Demand for the product continued to increase, with the average monthly distribution of antitoxin in 1909 more than the total amount issued in 1902.

As production increased, so did complaints from Yates Street neighbors to William S. Magill, M.D., who became the laboratory's second director in 1909. From his initial through his final annual reports, Dr. Magill petitioned for improved quarters, including a farm for the animals.

An enlarged Yates Street facility opened for business on November 1, 1906, and provided for the first time a single site for all laboratory activities. These included antitoxin manufacture, diagnostic examinations for the detection of infectious diseases and control of quarantines, and special investigations of epidemics or unsanitary conditions. A chemist and a bacteriologist were hired and new services introduced, including the sanitary chemical examination of water.

Remarking on this effort in the Department's annual report the following year, Commissioner Eugene H. Porter, M.D., wrote:
"Some of the conditions which the Department has discovered through the work of the State Laboratory would seem to indicate that something wet was the only standard for quality of certain water supplies."

In addition to testing drinking water, the laboratory also undertook "a more thorough and exhaustive investigation of beers brewed and sold in this State."

Recruiting excellent personnel to staff the expanded laboratory was uppermost in Commissioner Porter's mind when, in writing the Civil Service Commission in 1906, he urged that "the power of initiation" was the most important qualification for scientific assistants.

An assistant bacteriologist would soon prove his point by undertaking the redesign of syringes distributed with diphtheria antitoxin the existing ones had proved troublesome, as over time the rubber stopper stuck to the glass tube and could not easily be dislodged.

In the same period, laboratory staff were called upon to share their expertise in the Department's Sanitary Institute, the first school for health officers in the U.S. By 1909, there were 15 week-long courses, which included lectures, demonstrations and laboratory exercises.

Bacteriological examinations at the State Hygienic Laboratory more than tripled between 1908 and 1911, largely for the diagnosis of diphtheria, tuberculosis and typhoid. This routine activity paled in comparison to an extraordinary charge the laboratory undertook from July to November, 1911 -- diagnosis and control of cholera at New York City's Quarantine Station.

Outbreaks of the disease in ports of origin of ships docking in the city necessitated an all-hands-on-deck response from the city and state Health Departments. Laboratory director William S. Magill, M.D., transferred all available equipment, supplies and personnel from Albany to the Quarantine Station. Some 27,000 passengers were examined during the period. On a single day in November, with a staff of four, 2,076 passengers were listed, examined, cultures made and diagnoses completed so that all were released from quarantine within 31 hours.

After years of petitioning the commissioner, who in turn appealed to the governor, Dr. Magill's wish for a farm was granted in May, 1913, with a $10,000 appropriation from the legislature.

Shortly thereafter, property was purchased in Guilderland on present-day Route 155, colloquially known as State Farm Road. The same year, Governor William Sulzer appointed a commission to evaluate the public health and the public health laboratory of New York State, and named as its chair Hermann M. Biggs, M.D., chief medical officer of the New York City Department of Health. The commission called for a reorganization of the state Health Department, which "should be provided with new laboratories, with sufficient land and equipped with adequate facilities for making examinations and analyses for local health officers and for original research." Dr. Biggs was drafted as state health commissioner in 1914. He in turn appointed Augustus B. Wadsworth, M.D., director of the Division of Laboratories and Research.

With the transfer of horses to the farm, the Yates Street facility underwent substantial renovation. In Dr. Wadsworth's first annual report, he wrote that "the work was carried on under the greatest difficulties. Conditions were not even sanitary. The laboratory rooms in the building on Yates Street were small and crowded. Only a part of the building was arranged for work, while the remainder was used for storage and not heated, and without plumbing for water or gas."

In short order, he turned a former storage room into a media production facility, moved the diagnostic laboratories to rooms more suited for that purpose, created a reference library in the former director's office, and installed new heating, lighting and plumbing systems. The overall effect was to double the space for laboratory work.

Just as he expanded and renovated the laboratory's physical space, so too did Dr. Wadsworth increase and revitalize the laboratory's staff. Seated front and center circa 1915, he began his first year as director with a staff of 17 and ended it with 46. The trend continued. He effected the construction of a new main laboratory building on New Scotland Avenue in Albany. Designed for from 60 to 70 workers, by the time the space was occupied in 1919, his staff had grown to 150. On that site today stands the David Axelrod Institute for Public Health, one of several laboratory facilities that constitute the organization that now bears the name Wadsworth Center.

The Ultimate Price at the Battle of the Wilderness

A wartime sketch capturing the intense Wilderness fighting between Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s Confederates and Brig. Gen. James Wadsworth’s Federals on May 6, 1864, in the tangled woods lining the Orange Plank Road.

Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White
March 2021

A common farmer from Virginia and a millionaire general from new York transcended the horrors of the wilderness through simple acts of decency

B y mid-morning May 6, 1864, Brig. Gen. James Samuel Wadsworth had endured a rough 24 hours in Virginia’s Wilderness. It was about to get tragically worse.

Wadsworth dons a forage cap fitted with an oilcoth rain cover and a handsome tailored overcoat in this wartime image. From such a portrait, one might think the wealthy political general was more fashion conscious than battle-ready. In action, however, he proved doubters wrong. (Library of Congress)

The previous day, when Union and Confederate forces opened on each other in the tangled, second-growth forest just west of Chancellorsville, Wadsworth advanced his bluecoats—members of the 4th Division, 5th Corps—into “the dark, trammeling woods” and quickly fell afoul not only of Confederates but also the terrain. Later, after the division regrouped in the open fields around 5th Corps headquarters, corps commander Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren sent them back in again. Wadsworth once more pushed through the dense foliage, arrowing straight toward an unguarded gap in the Confederate line near the Orange Plank Road. A surprise counterattack by the 5th Alabama Battalion sent the division scrambling rearward for the second time that day.

Despite the setbacks, Wadsworth “was conspicuous beyond all others for his gallantry, prompter than all others in leading his troops again and again into action,” noted Army of the Potomac chief of staff Maj. Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys. Now, on May 6, the 56-year-old Wadsworth faced his most severe crisis yet—and from it would emerge one of the most unlikely stories of human decency displayed during the entire war.

A 4:30 a.m. assault led by Union Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock’s 2nd Corps, centered on the Orange Plank Road, had driven exhausted Confederates back more than a mile. Positioned as support, Wadsworth swung his division down from the northeast to help protect Hancock’s flank. But even as the entire right wing of the Rebel army faced annihilation, Wadsworth’s men became ensnarled with advancing troops from the 2nd Corps, necessitating a halt to sort things out.

Then the timely arrival of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s Corps reversed the momentum and the Federals
found themselves falling back pell-mell. Brigadier General Lysander Cutler, whose 1st Brigade broke under the onslaught, tried to find Wadsworth, his division commander, amid the chaos. Instead, he found a pair of the general’s aides and the divisional headquarters flag. Wadsworth’s horse had been killed in the assault, leading the men to believe Wadsworth had been slain as well.

But Wadsworth reappeared atop a new horse, apparently risen from the dead. He was always at the front, attested a member of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry, urging his men on in an almost fatherly way. The general carried “hat in hand, bringing it down on the pommel of his saddle with every bound” as he moved among the troops, “speaking kindly to them, with ever a smile on his pleasant countenance which shows no concern for the storm of lead and iron raging around him.”

Hancock, desperately trying to repulse the Confederate attack, placed Wadsworth in command of all Federal soldiers on the north side of the Orange Plank Road while Hancock tried to direct efforts south of the road.

Meanwhile, Longstreet followed his initial assault with an attack launched from an unfinished railroad cut that ran along the unprotected Federal left flank. Volleys of Rebel musketry “resembled the fury of hell in intensity,” said one Union soldier, as the Confederates swarmed out of the cut.

The silver-haired Wadsworth, riding along the Plank Road, “was absolutely fearless in exposing himself to danger,” desperately trying to meet the threat to his left flank. Working to stabilize the situation, he repositioned the 56th Pennsylvania and 76th New York to face south, in essence refusing his left flank. He ordered Brig. Gen. Alexander Webb’s 2nd Corps brigade to take up a position parallel to the Plank Road and bolstered this improvised line with the 56th and 57th Massachusetts from Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s newly arrived 9th Corps.

As Wadsworth met this threat, Longstreet advanced elements of three Confederate divisions eastward along the Plank Road and into the Federal lines. The veteran 20th Massachusetts Infantry—the so-called “Harvard Regiment”—stalwartly faced the oncoming assault from behind an improvised barricade.

Riding over, Wadsworth called out, “What are you doing there? Who commands here? Colonel George Macy stepped forward and responded, “I do. And have been placed here by General Webb to hold this position at any cost.” With Longstreet bearing down, and with no other way to blunt the Confederate advance, Wadsworth ordered the 20th Massachusetts forward, directly at the Rebels, in what was surely a forlorn assault.

Macy reminded Wadsworth that his men belonged to the 2nd Corps, not the 5th, but was quickly rebuked.

“Very well, sir,” Macy responded, “we will go.” Satisfied, Wadsworth went off in search of other Bay State soldiers to send into the fray. As he left, Macy declared, “Great God! That man is out of his mind.”

But, dutifully, those hardened veterans of Antietam’s West Woods, the upper river crossing at Fredericksburg, and the famous stone wall at Gettysburg surged forward to their demise. The 8th Alabama Infantry lay in wait, not firing until they “saw the whites of their eyes,” one of the Alabamians said. Scores of Bay State soldiers fell in the ensuing firefight, including Macy, wounded in both legs.

Wadsworth, meanwhile, continued to press the fight. Frustrated, he was nevertheless nearly omnipresent among the hodgepodge units north of the road. “The roll of musketry sounded like the rumbling and pealing of thunder,” recalled Corporal James Donnelly. Small arms fire felled trees all around “as if they had been cut by a machine.” Wadsworth “seemed to be unconscious of the great danger,” one man observed.

Newspaper artist Alfred R. Waud, who accompanied the Army of the Potomac during the 1864 Overland Campaign, drew this sketch of Wadsworth moments before his mortal wounding by a 4th Alabama soldier. Above: A postwar painting of the Widow Tapp House, located near the heart of the Wilderness fighting where Wadsworth was shot. (Library of Congress Courtesy of the National Park Service)

But in this cacophony of battle, Wadsworth’s horse was not unconscious of the danger. The second horse he had mounted during the battle, this replacement might not have been familiar to the general. Spooked, it took flight—galloping toward the enemy lines as Wadsworth struggled to regain control.

Within pistol range of the enemy lines, Wadsworth managed to turn the frightened beast around, and he and an aide, Lieutenant Earl Rogers, dashed back toward the safety of the flagging Union lines. Confederate small arms fire erupted. One bullet struck Rogers’ horse, felling the animal. Another struck Wadsworth in the head, spattering the general’s brain, blood, and skull fragments over the young aide.

Moments later, as Confederates drove their attack forward, Wadsworth—inert but still alive—lay helpless behind enemy lines.

A t first, Wadsworth seemed an unlikely war hero, although there’s no denying he was destined for great accomplishments of some sort. Born on October 30, 1807, in Geneseo, N.Y., his well-to-do family had ties to George Washington’s army during the American Revolution.

Wadsworth attended both Harvard and Yale. In 1828, he read law under the tutelage of Senator Daniel Webster and passed the bar in 1833. On May 11, 1834, Wadsworth married Mary Craig Wharton in her native Philadelphia—a union that produced six children, including Craig Wadsworth, an aide to Brig. Gen. Alfred T.A. Torbert at the time of the Battle of the Wilderness.

Flag carried by the 4th Alabama’s Company E, the Conecuh Guards. The 4th Alabama saw action in the Eastern Theater throughout the war, from First Manassas in July 1861 until Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Va. (Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History)

But the practice of law did not entice James Wadsworth, who instead turned to politics, philanthropy, and other ventures, including directorship of the Genesee Valley Bank and Genesee Valley Railroad Company. During the political tumult of the 1850s, Wadsworth was both an abolitionist and a Democrat the tension between those two stances led him to the newly forming Republican Party. He was a presidential elector in 1856 and 1860, backing John C. Frémont in 1856 and strongly backing Abraham Lincoln in 1860—something Lincoln did not forget.

With the outbreak of war, Wadsworth was appointed to the rank of major in the New York State Militia. His sense of noblesse oblige inspired him soon thereafter to volunteer his services, without pay, to the new Federal army commander in Washington, Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell. He served as an aide on McDowell’s staff at the First Battle of Bull Run. “Wadsworth is active,” one officer quipped, “always busy at something, and with a good allowance of common sense, but knows nothing of military matters.”

Lincoln rewarded Wadsworth’s political loyalty first by naming him military governor of the District of Columbia and later, in December 1862, by assigning him to field command of the 1st Division in the Army of the Potomac’s 1st Corps.

By May 1864, Wadsworth had amassed a solid fighting résumé. He led men into action at the May 1863 Second Battle of Fredericksburg, where he rode in one of the lead boats crossing the Rappahannock River under fire, with his horse swimming behind in tow. Two months later at Gettysburg, his division was the first Federal infantry to arrive on the field, and his men saw action on all three days of the battle.

As Captain Charles Hall of the 2nd Maine Light Battery said, speaking for many admirers, Wadsworth proved himself a “glorious man. A braver man never lived.”

D uring the May 6 fight along the Orange Plank Road, P.D. Bowles of the 4th Alabama realized a Federal officer was suddenly dashing in his direction. “Whether this was a mere act of bravado or because he could not manage his horse I do not know,” Bowles recalled, “but just as he reached the opening on the Plank Road and was near a large tree, one of the men in my command shot him off of his horse.”

Wadsworth’s aide, Rogers, scrambled to the general’s side. The lieutenant tried “to take a watch from [Wadsworth’s] outside coat pocket,” he attested, but as he did so, “a rebel ball passed in close proximity” to his head and “a rebel bayonet thrust” toward his abdomen. Luckily for Rogers, the reins of the general’s horse had wrapped around a dry pine branch, halting the animal. Leaping into the saddle, grabbing control of the reins and riding hell for leather away from the scene, Rogers made his way to Union headquarters at the Ellwood Plantation and informed Warren that Wadsworth was dead.

Wadsworth was not dead, in fact, but mortally wounded.

As the battle pressed east toward the Brock Road/Plank Road intersection, passing Confederates noted this “fine looking, portly man.” The body had been looted. “His hat and boots were gone, and every button was cut off of his coat,” one witness testified. Rogers was unsuccessful in securing the general’s pocket watch, but John Belote of the 6th Virginia Infantry did. (After the war Belote sent the watch to Wadsworth’s wife, “who made him a very handsome acknowledgment of it.”) Bob Archer of the 6th Virginia made off with a billfold filled with $90. The general’s boots, silver spurs, engraved field glasses, and anything else of value were also taken. Even Gilbert Moxley Sorrel, Longstreet’s chief of staff, ended up with Wadsworth’s “general map of Virginia.”

Eventually Confederate officers came upon the fallen Wadsworth and tended to him. “[W]ith the aid of a passing soldier we laid him upon his back, elevated his head slightly and placed his hands across his breast,” recounted artillerist C.R. Dudley. They tried to offer Wadsworth a “stimulant,” but to no avail, then rigged a makeshift shelter out of muskets and a discarded blanket. According to Lt. Col. Charles Marshall, Wadsworth “played with the trigger, and occasionally he would push the piece from him as far as he could reach,” but the general “was unconscious of what was passing around him.”

Confederates blunted an assault by Wadsworth’s division, forcing it to regroup along the Orange Plank Road. Wadsworth was wounded trying to press his men back into the fight.

Confederates managed to extract Wadsworth from the field, taking him to the Pulliam Farm, a temporary field hospital roughly 3.5 miles west of where Wadsworth had fallen. There was little doctors could do.

The entry point of the bullet seemed to be in question—near the nose, to the left of the crown of the head, above the forehead—but there was no doubt that the general was insensible and dying. Confederate surgeons made him as comfortable as they could under a tent fly.

“Esteem for his exalted character extended even to his enemies in arms,” one writer said, “the best of who deemed him a worthy foeman.”

Wadsworth had the good fortune to be joined by fellow Union prisoner Major Zabdiel Boylston Adams of the 56th Massachusetts Infantry. While the Battle of the Wilderness had been the baptism of fire for the 56th Massachusetts, it was not the first time Adams has seen the elephant. A doctor, Adams had served with the 7th Massachusetts at First Bull Run, and then joined the 32nd Massachusetts as its surgeon. At Gettysburg, his aid station on the east side of Stony Hill provided quick treatment to Federals battling in the Wheatfield, but the intense work severely damaged his eyes and he was temporarily blinded. Though discharged from the Army, he refused to give up the fight and soon joined the 56th Massachusetts, now attached to the 9th Corps.

James Wadsworth was well aware of his military shortcomings. He initially demurred at a general’s star if it were to come at the expense of a more qualified man. “[A]gainst a graduate of West Point or an officer of the Regular Army of fair reputation…and capacity, I can on no account allow my name to be presented as a candidate,” he said, but added: “[A]gainst men who have no advantage over me but a more recent connexion [sic] with the Militia, and a fresher knowledge of military techniques, I do not think it would be presumptuous in me to offer my name.” What Wadsworth lacked in military training, though, he more than made up for with patriotism, determination, and political connections—connections that eventually led Wadsworth to the post of military governor of Washington, D.C. In this capacity, the New Yorker found himself charged with the defense of the nation’s capital and in close contact with President Lincoln and the Federal high command. The principled Wadsworth soon found himself clashing with civil authorities over enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law. The general’s antislavery stance colored his interpretation of the law, and he chaffed at the imprisonment of displaced slaves taking refuge in the capital. He also clashed with egotistical Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan after McClellan became Union general in chief. “Little Mac” disdained politicians of any level and so seemed destined for a run-in with Wadsworth. In the spring of 1862, when McClellan shifted the bulk of Union forces to the Virginia Peninsula for a march on Richmond, Wadsworth was anguished McClellan hadn’t left enough men to defend Washington. McClellan balked, claiming he had left 73,456 men behind. The spat drew in Lincoln, who learned the figure was merely 20,000. This steeled the president against sending more troops to the Peninsula despite Little Mac’s pleas. McClellan never forgave Wadsworth for the incident, fuming privately: “I have so thorough a contempt for the man & regard him as…a vile traitorous miscreant.” Wadsworth fared no better with McClellan partisans in the Army, either. “Wadsworth has never taken the field nor exposed his life in the country’s service, but the sphere of his duties are confined to Willard’s Hotel and a comfortable office,” complained Robert S. Robertson of the 93rd New York, “so what has he done?” November 1862 brought elections, including one for the governorship of New York. Wadsworth put his name forward against the wishes of many of the more radical Republicans however, the same sense of duty that carried Wadsworth off to war kept him there. He stayed at his post, refusing to actively campaign, and would lose to Democrat Horatio Seymour by just fewer than 11,000 votes. The day after the election, Lincoln relieved McClellan of command. As it happened, the same train sent to retrieve McClellan also brought Wadsworth to the army as Lincoln’s special emissary to advise the army’s new commander, Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside. “Perhaps it is all right,” said provost marshal Brig. Gen. Marsena Patrick, “but I think the administration adds insult to injury….” When Wadsworth assumed command of the 1st Division in the 1st Corps in December 1862, the appearance of a political general with no military background was met with mixed feelings. “Wadsworth could not be elected Governor,” a Wisconsin soldier complained, “so he must have a place in the army.” But through solid combat experiences at Second Fredericksburg and Gettysburg, “Old Waddy” earned the respect and admiration of his men. During the fatiguing march into Pennsylvania, he cleared shirkers out of ambulances and had men pile knapsacks and guns aboard to lighten their loads. “I was much pleased with Genl Wadsworth,” an admirer opined. “He is a calm, sensible, just and reasonable man, intent upon doing his duty in a sensible and reasonable manner, with no tincture of fanaticism about him, but firm in his hostility to slavery and rebellion.” –C.M. & K.D.W.

Adams and his regiment had fallen under Wadsworth’s temporary command as Longstreet’s flank attack rolled forward. Wounded about the same time as Wadsworth, Adams bribed a Confederate officer with a can of sardines to load him into an ambulance. On the way to the field hospital, however, the ambulance crashed and Adams was knocked unconscious. When he awoke the next day, Adams found himself under an operating table at the Pulliam Farm. Horrifically, he realized bodily fluids were dripping onto his face.

Following a treatment of chloroform and nitric acid, “I found myself lying on the ground beneath a fly tent, and at my side a stretcher on which lay the form of a Union general officer,” Adams recalled. That officer was James Wadsworth.

Given permission to care for Wadsworth, Adams set about examining his patient. The doctor noted “no expression of pain.” One hand held a piece of paper Confederates had given him at the site of his wounding that contained the general’s name, as a way for others to identify him. When Adams took the paper from Wadsworth’s hand, the general would “frown and show restlessness and his hand moved to and fro in search of something.” Having something in his hands or close by seemed to have a calming effect on Wadsworth. Others noted that he played with the triggers and trigger guards of the rifles that held up the blanket that covered him, and a newspaper account noted that Wadsworth’s fingers would play with “the buttons on the coat,” although the reliability of that account is questionable since, by that time, Wadsworth’s coat had been stripped of all buttons.

Confederate surgeons probed the wound, and they attempted to feed the general, but to no avail. According to Adams, the left side of the general’s mouth was drawn down and his right arm was paralyzed.

Wounded about the same time as Wadsworth, Major Zabdiel B. Adams, a prewar doctor, used his expertise to examine and care for the general as his dying compatriot lay nearby. (Boston Public Library)

T hat afternoon, an Irish immigrant, Patrick McCracken, arrived at the Pulliam Farm with food and a bucket of milk. McCracken, a local civilian, had come to see Wadsworth. Under normal circumstances, there was no reason for this Virginia farmer to know the New York millionaire, yet fate had intervened a few years before, and McCracken had come to pay his due.

The first Federal occupation of the Fredericksburg area had spanned from April to August of 1862. During that time, Federal soldiers and local civilians had many uneasy interactions. One such interaction set McCracken on his way to Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C., accused of a litany of alleged crimes that ran the gamut from his voting for disunion at the Virginia secession convention to his overseeing the construction of Fort Darling near Richmond. None of the accusations was true. In fact, McCracken was essentially a poor dirt farmer.

The Irishman later recalled he “was a prisoner nine weeks in the Old Capitol [Prison].” Finally, the military governor of Washington at the time—Wadsworth—agreed to hear the man out. Realizing McCracken was innocent, Wadsworth ordered the man released and had the former prisoner swear that he would not support the Confederacy in any capacity. McCracken did so and went home.

In 1864, the 34-year-old McCracken lived “about a mile to the left of the plank road as you go from Fredericksburg to Orange Court House, near New Hope Meeting House…twenty miles from Fredericksburg and eighteen from Orange Court House.” After he heard of Wadsworth’s wounding, McCracken set out for the front and looked to repay “Old Waddy” for his kindness in 1862.

When McCracken arrived, Adams told him that Wadsworth was unable to eat, but McCracken left the milk and food, informing the doctor that he could partake if Wadsworth could not. McCracken also noted the slip of paper in Wadsworth’s hand.

The next day found McCracken at Wadsworth’s side once more. This time, he had “carried some sweet milk to the hospital and wet [Wadsworth’s] lips several times, and let a little go down his mouth. But when the surgeon raised him up, he could not get him to let any go down.” McCracken went home once more.

By the early afternoon of May 8, Wadsworth began to fade. “Here he now lay dying with not a single one of his friends or of kindred, or indeed any one to care for him of the thousands who had been his beneficiaries,” said Adams, who cared for him until the end. “There was only a little scrap of paper to tell who he was….” Just before 2 p.m., Wadsworth died.

But for Patrick McCracken, his debt to the dead Union officer was still not repaid.

Arriving back at the Pulliam Farm, McCracken was informed that Wadsworth was gone. Confederates had placed his body in a box in preparation for burial. McCracken had Wadsworth’s body removed from the hospital and taken to his farm “to bury him in a family burying ground.” There the Irishman “had a coffin made for him” from doors and other materials “painted black.” The makeshift casket was dubbed “a good coffin” by The New York Times when it later arrived in Washington via the Mary Raply.

But first, McCracken interred Wadsworth in his family’s burial plot, where he dug the “chamber” and “covered the coffin with plank, and then dirt.” He also “had a large plank planed and marked for a headstone and placed at the head of his grave,” he informed Wadsworth’s wife, Mary, in a letter dated May 9, 1864. No embalming or arrangements were made, and Old Waddy was buried “with all his clothing, as he fell on the battlefield.”

Shortly before the Battle of the Wilderness, Wadsworth had a conversation with Brig. Gen. Alexander Webb that proved eerily prescient for both men. “Wadsworth and myself had been discussing why I did not have certain men carried off the field who had been shot in the head,” Webb later recounted in an essay for Battles & Leaders. “I told him that from my observation I had never considered it worthwhile to carry a man off the field if, wounded in the head, he slowly lost his vertical position and was incapable of making a movement of his head from the ground. I considered such cases as past cure.” Wadsworth sustained a mortal head wound on May 6, 1864. On May 12, while fighting at Spotsylvania’s Mule Shoe Salient, Webb likewise received a head wound. “[T]he bullet passed through the corner of my eye and came out behind my ear,” Webb wrote. “While falling from the horse to the ground I [re]called my conversation with General Wadsworth when I struck the ground I made an effort to raise my head, and when I found I could do so I made up my mind I was not going to die of that wound, and then I fainted.” –C.M. & K.D.W.

But Wadsworth’s body would lie at rest on the McCracken property for only a few days. The Federal high command was anxious to learn of the general’s condition, whether living or dead. Some continued to hold hope that he was still alive. On May 14, the Washington Evening Star reported that a Union prisoner had seen Wadsworth “on a couch in a hospital tent, with one of our officers attending to him”—probably Major Adams. But reports of Wadsworth’s death were circulating. The general’s son, Craig, threatened to ride into enemy lines with or without permission to retrieve his father, dead or alive. Fortunately, cooler heads talked him out of that fool’s errand.

Once Wadsworth’s death had been confirmed, Army of the Potomac commander Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade wrote directly to his Army of Northern Virginia counterpart, General Robert E. Lee, to request that the body be returned. Although in theory Lee was not opposed to Meade’s request, the Confederate commander refused to allow an exchange or for Federal soldiers to cross into Confederate lines with the intent of obtaining Wadsworth’s remains, given that the campaign was still active.

Nearly a week passed while the high commands of the respective armies tried to come to an agreement. Meanwhile, men in the ranks took it upon themselves to cut through the red tape.

On May 12, Union soldiers under a flag of truce visited the Stephens Farm, a Federal 2nd Corps hospital during the Battle of the Wilderness that had fallen into Confederate hands. There, Captain James C. Borden of the 1st North Carolina Cavalry divulged the whereabouts of Wadsworth’s final resting place. Two days later, a lone ambulance rumbled up to the McCracken house, and Captain Orlando Middleton of the 57th New York had the general’s body exhumed and carried to the port of Fredericksburg. While Meade, Lee, and other ranking officers debated the exhumation and transfer of the body, two line officers and a burial detail found common ground, used common sense, and had faith enough in one another during wartime to trust that there was no ill intent. Thus, Wadsworth’s body was on its way north before Meade and Lee knew exactly what had happened.

The outpouring of public grief over Wadsworth’s death was nearly immediate and spread far and wide. Hundreds of news stories appeared in papers across the country. No detail was too small. Everything from reports of Wadsworth’s wounding, to his medical care, to the retrieval and travel of his body, to the fact that “celebrated embalmers” were dispatched to Fredericksburg, and even down to the fact that the body left Washington, D.C., exactly from the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 11th Street for its final journey to New York.

In the next few years, Mary Wadsworth received letters from various members of the Union and Confederate high commands, including Meade, Warren, Andrew Humphreys, and even Lee. Wrote Humphreys, who happened to be Mary’s cousin: “In the two days of desperate fighting that followed our crossing of the Rapidan [River], he was conspicuous beyond all others. Everyone was loud in [their] expressions of admiration at his noble conduct and of the sorrow at his loss.”

Dedication of this grand monument to Wadsworth at Gettysburg National Military Park, near where his 1st Corps division was engaged during the fighting on July 1, 1863, took place in October 1914. (In Memoriam: James Samuel Wadsworth, 1807-1864)

A lthough Mary Craig Wadsworth had lost her beloved husband, she committed to carrying on his philanthropic spirit, and she never forgot those who helped her husband in his final days—friends and foes alike. Over the years, many of the general’s personal belongings were returned to the family. John Belote, the 6th Virginia soldier who had taken Wadsworth’s gold watch, returned the item to the family and was handsomely rewarded. Adams had cut a lock of the general’s silver hair as a keepsake, which he sent her.

Meanwhile, McCracken’s charity was celebrated across the North, although he was misidentified in some papers as “Patrick Griffin.” Mary Wadsworth felt a special appreciation for what the farmer had done for her husband. The day after the general’s death, McCracken wrote a letter to her outlining the kindness that he, Adams, and the Confederate surgeons had shown in her husband’s twilight hours. Although we do not know the exact amount of “appreciation” Mrs. Wadsworth showered on McCracken, we do know that, in the years following the Civil War, McCracken and his brother, Terrance, opened a thriving dry goods store in Fredericksburg. According to family lore, the money to fund this venture came from Mrs. Wadsworth in appreciation for the kindness bestowed on her husband in May 1864.

Lincoln seemed to feel Wadsworth’s death keenly. “I have not known the President so affected by a personal loss since the death of [Sen. Edward] Baker [at Ball’s Bluff in 1861], as by the death of General Wadsworth,” recorded presidential secretary John Hay.

Wadsworth’s corps commander, Warren, referred to Wadsworth as “his best friend.” Warren went on to write an eloquent and fitting epitaph, which he sent to Mary. “With him, his country stood first, and in the maintenance of her honor and perpetuity, he surrendered the companionship of friends, the comforts and joys of a happy home, and the highest civil honors, and went to meet his foes,” Warren wrote. “With the men of his command he shared all privations and toils and dangers of a soldier’s life. His thoughts were ever for the comfort and efficiency of his troops. It was his nature to lead, and when the shock of battle was heaviest, there was General Wadsworth….[I]n the thickest of the carnage, in the van of his troops, in the very teeth of the enemy he met a patriot’s death.”

Yet it was also there, in the bosom of the enemy, that Wadsworth found compassion in his final hours, inspired by his own decency and humanity. With war still blazing, and the nation’s most powerful men powerless to bring Wadsworth’s body home, an unlikely hero stepped in to show simple human kindness—a kindness that would bind the New York millionaire and the Virginia dirt farmer forever.

Watch the video: The life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


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